Grilled as you like it

Gobo-maki and Teriyaki Chicken Drumettes February 25, 2009

gobo-maki (rear) and teriyaki chicken drumettes (front)

Here are two of my favorite recipes from my family’s New Year’s celebration. They’re my grandma’s recipes and both are big hits with adults and kids alike. Since we use these recipes for New Year’s we often make double, triple, or more to make sure that no one misses out. I don’t just make these yummy chicken wings for New Year’s though; they’re great grilled or baked any time of year. Although my grandma doesn’t do this, I like to boil the marinade while the wings are cooking to make a thick, syrupy sauce to pour on top.

A note about working with gobo: it will brown when exposed to air, so cut it just before you put it in the marinade or cover it with water after you cut it to prevent browning.

Gobo-maki: flank-steak wrapped burdock root
by Grandma Suzie

1 lb piece flank steak
2 or 3 gobo (burdock root)
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup sake or mirin
1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger root
1 clove garlic, grated
2 Tbsp distilled vinegar
2 qt water
1 cup dashi
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Have your butcher tenderize the flank steak. Cut the meat into 3 strips each about 1 1/4 inches wide. The meat should be about 1/3 inch thick. Mix the soy sauce, 3/4 cup sugar, sake or mirin, ginger, and garlic. Marinate the steak for 3 hours. Remove the steak from the marinade and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Cut gobo into  strips about 10 to 12 inches long and 1/3  inch square. Combine dashi, salt, and sugar and boil. Remove from heat and soak gobo in this mixture for 2 hours. With a long string, tie 4 or 5 gobo strips at one end. Then secure one end of the meat. Wrap meat and string around burdock and tie string at the other end. Broil 15 minutes, basting with marinade. Cool and slice 1/2 inch thick. Garnish with parsley and dip in soy sauce and mustard.

Teriyaki Chicken Drumettes
adapted from Grandma Suzie’s recipe by Laurel

1 or 2 large packages of chicken drumettes or wings
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup mirin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced

Stir together soy sauce, sugar, mirin, garlic, and ginger until the sugar is dissolved. Cover chicken with marinade. Adjust amount of marinade if needed to cover chicken, or make sure to turn chicken occasionally so that everything gets marinated evenly. Marinate for several hours or overnight.

Drain chicken and bake on foil-lined baking pan at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes.

If you like your wings extra-sticky, reduce the marinade to a thick sauce in a saucepan over low heat while the chicken is cooking.

copyright 2009, Laurel S.


Oshogatsu February 21, 2009

Kakudo-family New Year’s feast

During our holiday trip home, we took a short trip to Los Angeles for New Year’s. As always, we started the day with ozoni: mochi in soup. In Japan, it seems like every family has it’s own unique recipe for ozoni that is informed by the region that you live in. At our house, ozoni is made with dashi broth, just a splash of shoyu for saltiness, blanched mizuna (or spinach), kamaboko fish cake (preferably the pink one), and mochi. It’s simple and so good. Of course, we also like hot mochi with shoyu and sugar too. After that, we helped prepare the foods. Here is our New Year’s feast: inari-zushi, maki-zushi, nigiri, tempura shrimp, kohaku namasu, green beans, tai, gobo-maki, teriyaki chicken drumettes, kuri-kinton, kuromame, kamaboko, kombu-maki, lotus roots, nishime (with Shimonita konyaku that I brought from Gunma), komochi kombu, Kobayashi farm dried sweet potatoes, datemaki, and Chinese chicken salad (not a Japanese tradition, but a tradition in our house). Phew! I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. It didn’t seem like so many things while we were making them…

kurikinton, datemaki, kuromame, and Kobayashi farm dried sweet potatoes

Here is my new lacquered jubako (above) that I bought in Kappabashi in Tokyo. The motif is called sho-chiku-bai, meaning the pine tree, bamboo, and plum tree. I hope this lovely box is at many New Year’s meals to come.


We don’t usually have datemaki, a sweet rolled egg cake, but I wanted to try it and found an easy looking recipe in December’s Kyou-no-Ryouri magazine. I didn’t have a square omelet pan, so I baked it in the oven instead. After it was baked, I wrapped it in the oni-sudare rolling mat (see above) to give it ridges and held it shut with rubberbands while it cooled.

I also made the kuromame, but they were much less successful. I’ll have to work on my Japanese-reading ability before next year, because I left the beans in the syrup overnight and it sucked all of the moisture right out of the beans. 😦


Gobo-maki and teriyaki chicken drumettes are definitely a New Year’s tradition in our family. They’re really a favorite among the “kids.”


I made the nigiri sushi while Alex, Jackie, Jenn, Kacy, and EB made the maki-zushi.


adapted from Kyou-no-Ryouri

4 eggs
80-100 grams hampen (steamed fish cake)
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons dashi
1 tablespoon mirin
pinch of salt
vegetable oil

Blend hampen to a paste in a food processor. Add eggs, sugar, dashi, mirin and salt; mix well.

Strain the mixture through a mesh strainer.

Oil a square omelet pan (or square or rectangular baking dish) and cook the egg mixture until cooked through and lightly browned on both sides (if you’re using an omelet pan you will need to flip the eggs). (Depending on the size of your pan you may need to reduce the quantities or cook the eggs in batches because you don’t want it to be so thick that it’s difficult to roll.)

Place the cooked egg cake on the pointed side of an oni-sudare. Roll the mat and egg cake together at first to give it a basic, round shape. Then unroll and roll again, wrapping the mat just outside of the egg cake (like making sushi) to make a pretty, round roll. Fasten the mat closed with rubberbands and allow to cool.

When cool, slice into 1/2 inch slices.


Football Sushi March 17, 2008

Filed under: Cooking,Japan,recipes — laurel @ 11:15 pm
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Grandma’s inari are one of those special dishes that we usually only got to enjoy on special occasions when we were kids. The most memorable of these occasions was New Year’s Day, when the whole family would get together and enjoy a buffet of traditional and not-so-traditional New Year’s foods like sushi, tai, gobo beef rolls, teriyaki chicken wings, kurikinton, kuromame, rolled kombu, sweet and crunchy tiny fish, daifuku, rainbow jello sandwiches, and Chinese chicken salad. One of my favorites was “football sushi,” as we called them, perhaps associating the chubby brown sushi with the New Year’s Day bowl games playing in the family room.

When I was a kid, my dad took me to my first sushi bar, where I asked for my favorite, “Football sushi, please.” The chef, of course, had no idea what I was talking about. After some explaining, I learned that they are really called “inari sushi.” The other thing I learned that day is that no one makes them as good as my Grandma’s. Although you can buy the inari ready made, and this is what most sushi bars use, I find that they are insipidly sweet.

It is said that these sweet, brown tofu pockets stuffed with rice are a favorite of Inari, the fox god. The simmered tofu pockets can also be used as a topping for udon or soba noodles–the noodles are called kitsune udon or kitsune soba which means “fox noodles”.

Grandma’s Inari (Football Sushi)

4 cups cooked rice, prepared for sushi
12 sheets abura age (thin, puffy, deep fried tofu sheets, about 2 1/2 by 3 inches square; pronounced with a hard G)
3 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 1/2 to 2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Look closely at the abura age, although they are almost square, one dimensions should be longer than the other. Cut the abura age crosswise (across the long direction) in half. Alternatively, some cooks cut the abura age diagonally to make triangular pockets.

Place in a large saucepan pan of water and use a drop lid or the lid of a smaller saucepan to help submerge the inari below the water. Boil for 5 to 10 minutes to remove the excess oil. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Shake off the excess water and put the abura age back in pan. Add 3 cups water, sugar, salt, soy sauce, and mirin. Simmer for about 1 hour. Drain and cool.

Squeeze out the excess liquid. Carefully separate the two sides of the abura age to form a pocket, being careful not to tear a hole in it. This step may be a little challenging; I hold the abura age between the fingers of my two hands and use both thumbs to gently pry apart the sides. Alternatively, you could try cutting a pocket in the abura age with a knife, though the best time to do that might have been while they were still puffy before being boiled.

If you are using sesame seeds, sprinkle them on the rice and use the shamoji (rice paddle) to gently stir the seeds into the rice with a cutting motion, being careful not to smash the rice grains.

Fill each pocket with warm sushi rice, gently pressing the rice into the corners of the pocket. You want the pockets to be just full enough that they will stand on their own on a plate, but not so full that the inari pocket becomes tightly stretched or the rice bulges out the bottom.

If you like your inari more strongly flavored, decrease the amount of water in the simmering liquid.

Here is a basic recipe for sushi rice. I prefer my rice not too salty, so this recipe has less salt than most.

Shari (Rice for Sushi)

2 cups (360 grams) sushi rice (I use koshi hikari)
19 ounces water
2 inch square piece of kombu seaweed
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Put the rice in a mesh sieve. Put the sieve in a bowl that is just large than the sieve. Fill the bowl with cool water and use your hand to gently swish the rice around to remove the excess starch. When the water turns white, drain the rice and fill the bowl with clean water. Continue to swish and drain the rice several times until the water remains fairly clear. Drain the rice. Let the rice stand for about 5 minutes to drain completely. Put the rice in a rice cooker with 19 ounces of water and the kombu and cook. The rice should be fully cooked (not hard in the middle) but not mushy. If the rice is still hard, add more water and continue to steam until finished (being careful not to let it burn or overcook). If the rice is mushy, reduce the water next time.

While the rice is cooking, put the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over a low flame, stirring, until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat.

When the rice has finished cooking, put it into a wide flat bowl or sushi oke. While the rice is hot, sprinkle the sushi vinegar as evenly as possible over the rice. This can be done by pouring the vinegar over the back of your shamoji (rice paddle) while moving the shamoji over the rice. Then, use a cutting motion to mix and distribute the vinegared rice with the shamoji. Try not to compact or crush the rice. Use a fan to help cool the rice. Cover with a damp towel. Taste the rice. If you like it more or less flavorful, adjust the amount of sushi vinegar you use accordingly.